Puritan Gems

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Signs of the Olivet Discourse Part V


Matthew 24:29
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken;”

Starting in this passage of Scripture, my purpose in posting the last piece on Apocalyptic Language should become clear. That is exactly what we are getting into here. Is Verse 29 meant to be taken literally? If so, then how will the tribes of the earth survive without sunlight, since they will mourn in verse 30? When the stars of heaven fall, where will they land? On earth? Since the smallest of stars is many times bigger than earth, we must ask about the survival of those tribes again.

Obviously, this is apocalyptic language and we need to refer to previous uses in the Old Testament. The darkening of heavenly bodies has always represented the fall of a kingdom. Consider Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the fall of Babylon in Isaiah Chapter 13.

Isaiah 13:10
“For the stars of heaven and the constellations thereof shall not give their light: the sun shall be darkened in his going forth, and the moon shall not cause her light to shine.”

Joel uses similar language in his prophecy concerning the Day of Pentecost (Joel 2:28-32).

First Century Fulfillment:
At least one fulfillment of this prophecy took place, according to Peter, on the Day of Pentecost.

Acts 2:16-21
“But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: And I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

The Parousia of the First Century

Matthew 24:30
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”

This verse, as well as the bad KJV translation of verse 3, has led to the misunderstanding that Jesus was prophesying His Second Advent at the end of the world. Verse 30 contains more apocalyptic language. This is not about Christ’s Second Coming, but His “coming on the clouds", an Old Testament symbol of judgment. For example, in Isaiah’s prophecy against Egypt, “the Lord rides on a swift cloud”. (Isaiah 19:1) Yet Egypt was destroyed by Sargon, the king of Assyria (Isaiah 20:1-6), not by a literal appearance of the Lord.

Josephus reported seeing a great armies of chariots in the clouds during the Roman siege (Wars 6.5.3). Whether or not this actually occurred is irrelevant. A literal “coming” of the Lord is not required for the fulfillment of this prophecy. Those who heard Jesus’ words understood Him quite clearly, especially in light of the Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers. Jerusalem would be destroyed, and a new Covenant would take the place of the old. The owner of the vineyard was about to come (Matthew 21:40) and destroy those wicked men miserably (Matthew 21:41). The Judaists who rejected Christ would have the kingdom taken from them (Matthew 21:43), and they correctly perceived that Jesus was speaking of them (Matthew 21:45).


Matthew 24:31
"And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other."

The First Century Christians understood the meaning of Jesus’ Olivet Prophecy. Obeying Jesus’ warning in Luke 21:20-24, The Jewish Christians fled to Mt. Pella in Decapolis.

First Century Fulfillment:
“As Josephus was speaking thus with a loud voice, the seditious would neither yield to what he said, nor did they deem it safe for them to alter their conduct; but as for the people, they had a great inclination to desert to the Romans; accordingly, some of them sold what they had, and even the most precious things that had been laid up as treasures by them, for every small matter, and swallowed down pieces of gold, that they might not be found out by the robbers; and when they had escaped to the Romans, went to stool, and had wherewithal to provide plentifully for themselves; for Titus let a great number of them go away into the country, whither they pleased.” – (Josephus - Wars 5:10:1)

“But the people of the church in Jerusalem had been commanded by a revelation, vouchsafed to approved men there before the war, to leave the city and to dwell in a certain town of Perea called Pella.” – (Eusebius - History of the Church 3:5:3)


One of the worst examples of Dispensationalist eisogesis can be found in their treatment of the Parable of the Fig Tree.

Matthew 24:32-33
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors."

Based on this passage, the Rapture Ready Website assures us that “there is little doubt among Bible scholars that the establishment of the State of Israel, on May 14, 1948, is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the fig tree.” Furthermore, we are told that “most agree that this says that the generation of people who witness the fig tree bearing leaves (Israel becoming a nation) will not pass away until the Son of Man returns.”

There are several problems with this interpretation. First of all, the Parable of the Fig Tree (Matthew 21:18-21) says absolutely nothing about a rebirth of Israel. In fact, it says just the opposite about the nation of Israel and their covenant status. The “fig tree” was the Israel of the First Century, which was cursed so that “no fruit (would) grow on you ever again”. (Matthew 21:19).

The parable of the Fig Tree is about the destruction, not the rebirth, of Israel. The Fig Tree = THIS mountain = Jerusalem. It was the be cast into the Sea = Abyss, the abode of demons (The “beast” rises out of the “sea” in Rev. 13.)

Second, Jesus said that the entire Olivet Discourse would be fulfilled within the Apostle’s generation. He said nothing about “the generation of people who witness …Israel becoming a nation”.

Matthew 24:34
"Verily I say unto you, This generation (genea) shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."

We discussed the meaning of this passage in previous blogs. Jesus meant exactly what He said. The Dispensationalist rendering of the Parable of the Fig Tree is a sloppy and irresponsible handling of Scripture.

Matthew 24:35-42
“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. Then shall two be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding at the mill; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”

First Century Fulfillment:
“Now the number of those that were carried captive during the whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege, eleven hundred thousand, the greater part of whom were indeed of the same nation, with the citizens of Jerusalem, but not belonging to the city itself; for they were come up from all the country to the feast of unleavened bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army, which, at the very first, occasioned so great a straitness among them, that there came a pestilential destruction upon them, and soon afterward such a famine as destroyed them more suddenly. And that this city could contain so many people in it is manifest by that number of them which was taken under Cestius, who being desirous of informing Nero of the power of the city, who otherwise was disposed to contemn that nation, entreated the high priests, if the thing were possible, to take the number of their whole multitude. So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour to the eleventh, but so that a company not less than belong to every sacrifice, (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves,) and many of us are twenty in a company, found the number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred; which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to two millions seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy; for as to those that have the leprosy, or the gonorrhea, or women that have their monthly courses, or such as are otherwise polluted, it is not lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice; nor indeed for any foreigners neither, who come hither to worship.” (Josephus – Wars 6.9.3)

When Titus and the Roman Army invaded Jerusalem in 70 AD, some of the citizens were taken (captive) and some were left (killed).


As we can see from these posts regarding Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, it was all fulfilled within the Apostle’s generation. The Great Tribulation is past history, and there is no reason to believe otherwise. David Chilton, in his book “The Great Tribulation”, gives us an excellent summary of the Olivet Discourse.

“The only possible interpretation of Jesus' words which He Himself allows, therefore, is that He was speaking of the destruction of the Temple which then stood in Jerusalem, the very buildings which the disciples beheld at that moment in history. The Temple of which Jesus spoke was destroyed in the fall of Jerusalem to the Roman armies in A.D. 70. This is the only possible interpretation of Jesus' prophecy in this chapter. The Great Tribulation ended with the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70. Even in the (unlikely) event that another temple should be built sometime in the future, Jesus' words in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 have nothing to say about it. He was talking solely about the Temple of that generation. There is no Scriptural basis for asserting that any other temple is meant. Jesus confirmed His disciples' fears: Jerusalem's beautiful Temple would be destroyed within that generation; her house would be left desolate. (See Matthew 23:37-38).

Contrary to the popular “paperback fiction” novels of our day, the Great Tribulation is history.

For more information, read The Great Tribulation by David Chilton


Turgonian said...

I hardly know what to say... Your defence of preterism is coherent and comprehensive. I'll just let you know I'm still reading this blog. ;)

Puritan Lad said...

Thanks. Feel free to post as well.

Obviously, the Book of Revelation is way too lengthy for me to give it the same treatment as the Olivet Discourse, so I will highlight some of the main points for consideration. (The Beast is always fun to discuss.) I also will deal with Dispensationalism and their view of the Law, and Christian Zionism.

Anonymous said...

Good work. Chilton was a very good exegete. His commentary will be the textbook for preterism one day.

Puritan Lad said...

I love Chilton's work. He blends solid theology with his excellent skills and humor. Days of Vengeance is a masterpiece.